Native American Business: Myths and Facts about Casinos


Raking in Casino Cash:

Casino gaming and handicrafts are probably the two
busine sses that come to mind when the general public thinks
of indigenous entrepreneurs. The lucrative casino gaming
industry is most often associated with the Native American culture. However, the perception that all tribes have amassed tremendous wealth is misleading.

Some tribes, like the Seminoles of Florida, have amassed a fortune, and other tribes across the United States are responsible for contributing millions of dollars for their state’s income tax base, benefiting non-Native American people and businesses in the areas surrounding the casinos. Consider: in California, of the 14,500 people employed in the industry, only 10 percent are Indians.

Depending on the area of the United States, entrepreneurial pursuits and success for Native Americans varies widely. For example, the Oyate Lakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is no longer the poorest in the country. There are now about 300 businesses, and 100 more enterprises since a community development fund was started that focuses on providing small and micro business loans, along with training and financial literacy education.

The fund has created 750 jobs, according to the organization’s website. Still, there is a long way to go because unemployment on the reservation is 70 percent.

In general, the Native American gaming industry is often bogged down in governmental red tape and controversy. It’s an enterprise that requires high levels of capital investment. If the casino is located in a remote area and difficult to get to, then customers and revenues will be poor. Indian casinos have gone out of business.

Many Native American tribes in the region known as the Great Basin, which includes the Sierra Nevada and many of the Western states, don’t have the economic or geographic opportunities that their counterparts in other parts of the United States may have. For instance, in the Great Basin region, long harsh winters rule out a year-round tourism industry. According to an anthropology expert, you can drive through Wyoming for hundreds of miles and all you’ll see is prairie; you’ll never come across a town. These factors make it difficult to build industries.

Lesson: Myths about business success can be found in every culture. Misinformation about the successful nature of specific groups of people and industries usually occurs because the general public never fully researches the facts.


National Indian Gaming Commission

California Nations Indian Gaming Association

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